[August 12, 2007 @ 11:36 am] David Hogberg

That will be the unofficial motto of our health care system should it be taken over by the government. It is important to keep in mind that politicians have to please voters to get elected, and any health care policy they make will, first and foremost, be designed to win votes. Whether it will actually improve our health will, at best, be incidental.

For proof of this, take a look at this article in the New York Times:

Despite promises by Congress to end the secrecy of earmarks and other pet projects, the House of Representatives has quietly funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to specific hospitals and health care providers under a bill passed this month to help low-income children.

Instead of naming the hospitals, the bill describes them in cryptic terms, so that identifying a beneficiary is like solving a riddle. Most of the provisions were added to the bill at the request of Democratic lawmakers.

One hospital, Bay Area Medical Center, sits on Green Bay, straddling the border between Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, more than 200 miles north of Chicago. The bill would increase Medicare payments to the hospital by instructing federal officials to assume that it was in Chicago, where Medicare rates are set to cover substantially higher wages for hospital workers.

Lawmakers did not identify the hospital by name. For the purpose of Medicare, the bill said, “any hospital that is co-located in Marinette, Wis., and Menominee, Mich., is deemed to be located in Chicago.” Bay Area Medical Center is the only hospital fitting that description.

For those that don’t know, Medicare’s reimbursement rates are based on geography, with areas with a higher-cost of living getting higher reimbursement rates. Obviously, designating an area as part of Chicago (when clearly it isn’t) will result in higher reimbursement rates.

But, the Times does get one thing wrong:

The primary purpose of the bill is to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program while enhancing benefits for older people in traditional Medicare. But a review of the bill by The New York Times found that it would also direct millions of dollars a year to about 40 favored hospitals, by increasing their Medicare payments.

No, the primary purpose is to maximize votes. People are more likely to vote for a politician if he or she is perceived as doing something for those adorable little crumb-crunchers. That’s why we do not have a State Trial Lawyers’ Health Insurance Program.


Representative Marcy Kaptur, Democrat of Ohio, won extra money for St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo. Under the House bill, the hospital would be “treated as located in the same urban area as Ann Arbor, Mich.,” more than 40 miles away.

Lawmakers did not identify St. Vincent by name, but referred to a hospital with Medicare provider number 360112. That is the identification number for St. Vincent.

Scott E. Shook, senior vice president of St. Vincent, said this provision would bring $6 million a year in additional revenue to the hospital.

“Ann Arbor has a higher Medicare payment rate that reflects the higher wages there,” Mr. Shook said.

Steven D. Fought, a spokesman for Ms. Kaptur, said the congresswoman was happy to help because “St. Vincent is a major employer, a source of good jobs in a community that has been hard hit by globalization and grievously hurt by the loss of manufacturing jobs.”

Of course, what she doesn’t say is that there are quite a few votes to be won there as well.

The same thing will happen should we give the whole health care system over to the government. Politicians will use it as a way to maximize their election chances, with little regard to whether it helps people’s health.

Anyone on the left who tries to convince you otherwise is either naïve or dishonest.

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